So here is my first contribution to "First Sunday Short Fiction". This is my short story from Michelle's contest. We wrote from a picture she called, The Stone House.
The Stone House
By: Suzanne Payne
On my first trip to Scotland, I wanted to see castles and be transported back to the land of my ancestors. The tour bus I traveled in was forced to stop due to a flat tire. The tour guide, a small-framed blonde named Kenna told us we were free to roam around as long as we were back within the a few hours.
Most of the tourists stayed close to the bus, but being drawn out by the clear air and blue sky, I decided to head down the road alone and snap some pictures. Since the sky was unusually blue dotted with white puffy clouds, I couldn’t resist. My digital Canon and I ventured away from the group and I fought the urge to sing ‘Zippety-Do-Da’ out loud. It was glorious to stretch and move my cramped body kicking pebbles as I walked like I did as a child.
I huffed and puffed walking up a hill noting I really needed to start exercising when I returned from my overseas venture. The view from the top of the hill was gorgeous with green slopes and small white dots scattered across them. Looking through my larger zoom lens, I could see the white cattle grazing in the distance. I rotated around using my zoom like a set of binoculars. A little way into the forest on the other side of the road a set of stone steps caught my eye. When I took the camera from my eye and sought what the steps were attached to, I found parts of a stone house nestled among green shady trees. Not quite a castle, but still interesting enough. I decided to walk to the stone house and explore it. It wasn’t that far away. I thought I could poke around and take some pictures without worrying about being abandoned in the Scottish countryside.
As I walked closer through the trees between the stone house and myself, the wind began to pick up. The cool breeze felt wonderful energizing me forward rattling the leaves above me. This forest felt like walking around in Tennessee and I smiled at the thought. I stopped halfway there to try and fit the whole house in my camera’s view. I snapped the picture and immediately checked it on the screen to confirm its quality. Sun spots were shining through the leaves keeping me from seeing the picture as well as I wanted, so I shaded the screen for a better look.
My stomach twisted a little when my eyes registered a man standing at the top of the steps. A man with dark hair and a long, tall body wasn’t there before I took the picture and he wasn’t there now. In the picture, he wore a white collared shirt and blue jeans. Knowing the phrase curiosity killed the cat, and ignoring it, I decided to move closer to see if he was still there. He was cute, but being there one minute and gone the next was a little odd. The idea of something supernatural going on wasn’t entirely out of the question, since Scotland’s folklore was filled with tales of fae folk.
The only sound was the rustle of my feet through the forest floor until I heard a man’s voice exclaim, “Stop!” Without question, I automatically froze looking around for the source of the voice. I wondered if there was a gun pointed at me like in the old westerns when someone trespassed on someone else’s property. I hoped not.
“I just wanted to take some pictures,” I spoke louder thinking the man was inside the house even though his voice registered right next to me. The house had walls, but no roof. “I think it’s a beautiful spot. Is it ok with you?” I hoped compliments would help me gain access, but I was becoming a little discouraged.
“Aye, it is a grand spot,” the voice spoke low caressing me with his Scots accent. A dark-haired man appeared at the top of the stone steps studying me. He appeared to be the same age as me. “Alright, come on then,” he waved me toward him smiling and disappeared again through the arched door. Why was he smiling? I stopped and took a picture of the mossy stone steps before I ventured upward. The wind picked up again faster causing the leaves to hum catching my attention. This was the first time I second-guessed my decision to venture through the unfamiliar wood, but his smile drew me in. It was a shy, flirty smile and it was working me over. Deciding not to be spooked by humming leaves, my hand floated up the mossy stone-pillared hand rail feeling soft and squishy.
I stood at the landing where I’d seen the man glancing around to see where he’d gone. Looking through the arch, I saw him sitting on what looked like a stone hearth. The lack of a roof allowed the sun to dapple the stone floor from between the forest’s trees. “Come on, lass,” he called encouraging me. I wondered if I should trust him. I felt drawn to him for some reason.
“This your house?” I asked hoping to start a conversation to keep me sane.
“It is. Been in my fam’ly for generations,” his smile was easy as he leaned against the gray stone fireplace of the empty former room. “I’m Robert MacKay.”
I repeated the name in my head. The name felt familiar, but being a teacher, I’d met thousands of people throughout my life. “Robert MacKay,” I said his name aloud and his expression blossomed into a full blown smile. He seemed like he was trying not to smile so wide, but couldn’t help it. He looked as if he might actually start laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothin’ at all. Hearin’ yeh say my name,” he paused, “It’s like music, Ellie.” His smile grew and he stood up walking toward me.
“How do you know my name?” I glanced down wondering if I was wearing something with my name on it, but knew I wasn’t. My mouth went dry with fear. What was it about this guy? His eyes looked so familiar. When he said my name there was so much love there. How could that be?
“You’re the spittin’ image of my wife… Ellie. She died forty years ago.” He stood and stepped closer to me. For some reason my chest tightened. He didn’t look as old as he should be. This didn’t make sense. I couldn’t tell if it was my nerves or my instincts telling me to run. “I’ve been ‘ere for years. Waitin’ on ‘er to come back…waitin’ for you.” He took another step toward me, but I backed away, not sure why. He looked so genuine, but he was talking a little too crazy for me.
“I know yeh don’t remember me. They said yeh wouldn’t at first, but if yeh allow me to just …touch you, then yeh’ll remember.” He sounded desperate.
“Who are ‘they’ and what will I remember?” Why was I not running away from this guy? Why did I want to hear what he had to say? I might be as crazy as he is.
“The fae folk—fairies. When yeh died, they wouldn’t bring you back to life like I asked, but they promised yeh’d come back to me if I gave them my land. It was fields for growin’, but when they took it, the forest took over. Ev’ryone thought I was crazy for givin’ up my land. I had to work other places and move around because I wasn’t agin’ and everyone around me was. They gave me enough extra years to wait for yeh. They promised if I waited, I’d be the same age as you when yeh returned.” His eyes grew softer and his smile more familiar. Stretching his arm toward me offering his hand, I stared at it unsure and afraid. If I took it, what would happen? “Please?” He asked so humble, almost begging.
What was stopping me? I’d been single my whole life. Forty years of being an aunt to my sibling’s and friend’s children, but I liked my life…I thought. “Touch my hand,” he still held it in front of me. Take a chance. Why not? I took a deep breath and our fingertips touched. A memory of kissing him shot through me. I gasped and drew my hand away for a moment shocked at what I’d seen. “What did ya’ see?” He asked panic-stricken. When I didn’t answer, he grabbed my hand tighter lacing our fingers together. His reaction almost made me think he was trying to hold on to me to keep me from disappearing. Another memory of us standing in this spot me kissing him surrounded by a roof and a warm fire blazing flashed again. “Ellie! What is it?” his voice spoke anxious to know what was happening. I could’ve sworn I saw a gold ring on my finger sliding through his dark hair.
“We were married?”
“For about a year,” he seemed to be relieved. A tear slid down his cheek and he clutched his long fingers between mine.
“This was our house?”
“It was,” he looked at me with an overwhelming burst of happiness. “Oh, God, yeh really remember!” I felt my feet leave the stone floor as he picked me up and twirled me around.
Before I could say anything else, he was pulling me to him wrapping me in his warm embrace. His lips were soft and hungry. My brain told me to fight him, but I found myself pulling him closer to me, wanting him as close as I could stand. He wasn’t a stranger. This was Rob. He was the man my heart could never find. He was the reason no other man could make me happy. Relief washed over both of us and we sighed deepening our link.
“Your love brought you together again,” a high sweet voice spoke all around us. Our lips broke apart smiling at each other and then we looked around trying to find the source of the voice. “It pleases the fae when lost love is returned.” I wasn’t sure what to think now. Here I was holding my former husband from my previous life in my arms and standing in the ruins of what was once our house. In an instant, our stone cottage reformed into a glorious modern stone mansion. “Robert MacKay, your patience and steadfastness will be rewarded.”
“Is this really happening?” I asked him still not sure of any of it.
“Yes. You’re here. You’re really here,” his words and arms wrapped me in gratitude. “We ‘ave a lot o’ catchin’ up to do,” he spoke in my ear through a wide smile and covered me with kisses. He picked me up to reach his six-two frame kissing me again. I wanted his lips always. I couldn’t kiss him enough.
“Ellie MacKay, welcome home,” the high sweet voice spoke again.
“It’s like yeh’ve been on a long trip, and now yeh’re home,” Rob gushed. “Yeh’re finally home.”
“How do I explain this to my family?” Ellie wondered. A small blonde girl appeared in their living room in a shimmering silver gown.
“Not necessary,” her voice’s timbre was like a piccolo. “I took care of everything. Your former life no longer exists. From now on, you will be Ellie MacKay, wife of Robert MacKay and you will live out your life here.”
“What about my parents and my friends?” Ellie’s heart saddened.
“Souls congregate to each other. They will be a part of your life here. They’re lives and names will be different, but one by one, they’ll show themselves to you. I’ll be off now.”
“Wait—you’re Kenna, my tour guide!” Ellie’s jaw dropped. Kenna shrugged, winked and disappeared.